In the first of this series, Brian Viner was travelling – all the way to Australia - and on his airline ticket noticed a number…
We join him where he left us in his first installment.
The first time I purchased these tickets I examined them quite carefully to make sure everything was correct after aforementioned ordeal and I noticed a strange number had appeared, printed alongside my name. Well, the number on reflection wasn’t really a strange number as such, it was a familiar number, a number that appeared on the electoral papers that the electoral people seemed to send me every three months. I rang the travel agent: “Why?” I said. They said they didn’t know, I just had to have it printed on it or they couldn’t issue the ticket: “So why is it necessary?” Again they didn’t know, but the Government Computer Centre said they had to put it on. Our Government had bought a great big computer and put it up in Wanganui and had to do something with it and was employing people to see where I was and what I was doing. Well, not just me. Everybody.
I wasn’t doing anything really; just went to work; paid an artificially inflated mortgage and didn’t do anything exciting, climbed Everest a couple of times; broke the family’s record for driving to work everyday for a week with the fuel gauge showing empty. Usual life went on as usual. Then I retired.
I shouldn’t have though, my remaining years would not be of the slightest interest to anyone. I was wrong. I became of immediate and fascinating interest to the State, the Government, and its computer.
All people, if they want to receive superannuation, have to have an interview with Social Services. I passed with flying colours. Well, I must have done as the interviewer said yes, I qualified and yes, payments would start next week. Great.
Little did I realise that I had been added to the books, another for them to keep track of. Even in retirement I was employing people, just by existing. Hundreds of civil servants, all working away on wondering what I was doing and where I was at any given time.
Shortly after the initial interview I received a letter, the first of several, outlining my responsibilities now I was reliant on the State. “By the way,” it said “now we have granted you this pension, don’t think you can do anything you want, if you go overseas you must tell us because we are the State and without us you wouldn’t have the pension... and... you can only leave the country for six months and we would like to know where you are going please and what you are doing...” This, of course, caused me some problems as I was planning to use my Al-Qaeda contacts to convert all the profits I had made from drug running into armaments, which I was planning to sell to Middle Eastern countries, and furthermore attempt to de-stabilise the financial stability of Central America, and when I had done all that, launch a cyber attack on Bill Gate’s Microsoft Empire which will create a monopoly for Apple to rule the internet and I was intending to do all this using my laptop which is connected to the internet through dial-up.
I told them all this and they didn’t bat an eyelid and said, “Going off to Oz then, Sydney is it then, see the grandchildren, couple of weeks then?”
“Actually yes,” I said.
“That’s ok then, be sure you fill out you departure and arrival cards properly with phone numbers and addresses where you will be staying as we need to know this as it is important to us. And the moment you get home tell us or we will stop your payments if you stay away for too long. So don’t think now you are retired you can just clear off and enjoy yourself.” Somehow I didn’t.
And they sent me another Gold Card. The Gold Card used to be called a Community Services Card. They send me one every year. A lovely plastic card. Why they don’t just give me one to last a lifetime I don’t know because the electoral roll people know I am still alive as they send me orange-coloured cheerful letters with silly cartoons on them because I am simple. They send them through the post announcing that yet another election is on its way and I MUST register or else. And, asking me if I still reside at this address... though how they expect a reply if I wasn’t at the said address, I don’t know, maybe they could ask another Government agency one which regularly checks on me like the Motor Registration people or the Prime Minister’s office which on the eve of elections realises I exist and have a vote. Or our Bank which never stops telling me I should go on internet banking, then when I do, insists on sending me printed statements, perhaps I should think micro not macro and cyber attack the Wanganui Computer Centre instead... Nah, Microsoft sounds more fun.
But, and it’s a big but, these Stop-and-Go people in that stand alongside their road repair cones… are they clones, in big black sunglasses watching me?
Perhaps I am a paranoid person.